I recently took a Cheesemaking 101 class at Solstice Sun Farm in Anderson, IN. The owner, Mel, is in a hippie FB group with me. Mel gives a couple of cheese classes. I went to the shorter 2 hour one so we made three types of soft cheese: mozzarella, ricotta, and fromage blanc.
Mel raises goats so we used goat milk for the mozzarella and ricotta. The taste is slightly different depending on the stage of the animal’s milk production. Also, when making cheese, raw milk is best. Mel said that it’s much easier because it’s like the raw milk wants to be cheese.
In the picture above, Mel has a gallon of milk in each pot. The pot on her left will be made into ricotta and the one on the right will turn into mozzarella.
The easiest is the ricotta. First, you bring the milk to a gentle boil then add white or apple cider vinegar. She used white vinegar in this demonstration. Next, she took the pot off the heat and let it sit for 10 minutes then strained it in cheese cloth in a colander.
One gallon of milk makes about two pounds of ricotta for your lasagna, cannoli, and cheesecakes.
Mozzarella is a little harder. You need a thermometer for this one. She used one of those hand held infrared ones that’s shaped like a gun. Slowly, she raised the temperature on the stovetop to 55 degrees. Then she added citric acid and lipase. Then she slowly increased the heat until it got to 88 degrees then added the rennet. At 100-105 degrees, the curds should be forming and coming together but the burners she had set up for the demonstration kept going out so we had to move it to the stovetop in her kitchen and it came together really quickly.
Next, she drained the water off and folded it together then put it back in the hot water to soften it and then stretch it again to get the right consistency. The water is pretty hot so you need to have to have hardened chef hands or use gloves. You can also do this by putting it in the microwave for increments of 35 seconds, taking it out to stretch, then putting it back in to heat again. Add some salt to season while stretching. When it’s the consistency of taffy, it’s done. You don’t want to under or over stretch it. Next, she made it into a ball and put it in cool water. Then it’s ready to eat.
She said the consistency for the mozzarella wasn’t the best she’s made (maybe because of the burner situation) but it was still tasty though a little chewy.
We also sampled other cheeses that she has made. For the harder cheeses, she showed us different contraptions she uses with heavy weights.
For homework, she had us bring a gallon of milk. The best is raw milk but second is whole milk that’s not ultra pasteurized. Of course, I accidentally got the ultra pasteurized but it worked out anyways. We placed the milk in a warm bath in the sink then she opened each one and added some freeze dried culture. Next, she added some liquid rennet. We each held our containers and used a soft rocking motion to mix it up.
I put the lid back on and took the container home. You just leave it for 12-24 hours at room temperature and then drain. The longer you leave it, the more acidic it gets. I opened it the next day after 18 hours and then drained it in a cheese cloth and colander.
Next, I gathered it up and let it hang for 8 hours. She has a bungee cord in her kitchen for this but I rigged this questionable set-up in my dining room.
Here is the final product. I mixed it with strawberry preserves to serve on bagels and again with honey on some toast.
I ordered a cheese kit and it has recipes for harder cheeses such as cheddar, gouda, parmesan, and Colby so hopefully, when the farmers’ markets open, I can get some raw milk and try to create them.